Rise of the Runelords

All's Not Right at the Looney Bin...

Returning back to Sandpoint and fearing that the killer was some manner of undead, the group chose to visit Father Zantus at the Sandpoint Cathedral. Father Zantus confirmed that all of the clues pointed to ghoulish activity, and that the foul stench at the murder scenes was most likely due to the presence of a ghast. The use of the word "pack" in the note to Merisiel was further confirmation, as ghouls often ran in packs and were clever, cunning undead capable of performing a ritualistic murder.

Father Zantus also informed the party that a person who was bitten by a ghoul often contracted ghoul fever, which slowly ate away at a person's life force. Anyone who succumbed to ghoul fever generally rose as a ghoul the following night. Tsaruqs, fearing that the recently dead Grayst Sevilla at Habe's Sanatorium would rise as a ghoul, wild shaped into an eagle and flew back to the Sanatorium with all haste. The remaining party members purchased a few vials of holy water from Father Zantus and mounted up, riding after Tsaruqs into the rapidly setting sun.

Tsaruqs arrived at the sanatorium and burst in through the door, telling the two tiefling orderlies of the danger. Laughing of the half-orc's ravings, one reluctantly went upstairs to tell Doctor Habe, but a piercing human shriek and the heavy tread of the orderly's boots quickly running back down the stairs told Tsaruqs all he needed to know.  The orderlies broke into the Doctor's office, rummaging for coin, while Tsauqs drew his falchion and quietly crept up the stairs. 

He arrived at a gruesome sight, watching the reanimated form of Grayst chewing away at the flesh of Doctor Habe, who lay motionless on the floor. Tsaruqs saw that the doors for the upstairs prisoners were made of iron and quite secure, and went lower into the sanatorium to free any other patients that might be in danger. He freed a blind old farmer named Sedge, leading him from the place and walking north along the road, towards Sandpoint.

He encountered the others shortly, and the group decided to head back to the Sanatorium once again to end the ghoulish threat. Leaving Sedge outside with the horses, the group made their way into the sanatorium, only to see that a door on the ground floor that had always been closed before, was now left open. A set of stairs led down to a basement, and Arwyn crept quietly down to investigate. She found the laboratory and lair of a necromancer, whose experiments lay plain to see on the work tables. The group moved downstairs to investigate and quickly searched the lair for clues, but were interrupted by the sounds of footsteps moving down the stairs above them, out to the common area.

Charging up the stairs to keep the ghoul from getting away, the party instead saw a group of zombies slowly clearing away a barricade that the party had made to keep the ghoul from escaping. As they moved to engage the zombies, ghoulish Grayst also jumped out, accompanied by a wizened old Varisian man clad in a black robe. A fierce battle took place, with Aquinas burning several zombies and Tsaruqs and Rorrek quickly slicing down the others. Arwyn quietly crept around the necromancer and attacked fom the shadows, gravely wounding him. The necromancer attempted to get off a few touch spells, but couldn't connect with the agile elven rogue. With his zombie minions destroyed, Tsaruqs moved in and he and Arwyn made swift work of the wizard. While the druid and rogue dispatched the necromancer, Aquinas and Rorrek moved to engage the ghoul, easily defeating him.

 

The party searched the remainder of the building and saw no further danger. Tsaruqs prepared some meals for the remaining prisoners, resolving to leave the matter of the sanatorium to the town. Examining the necromancer's room and laboratory revealed copious notes on Thassilonian runes and magic, as well as a strongbox filled with valuable gems and jewelry. The party also discovered a map of the Sandpoint hinterlands that the necromancer had been using to track “ghoul activity.” In particular, there has been an increase in ghoul sightings around the southern farmlands and along Foxglove River. The dark wizard's current research seems concerned with developing a method by which one could track a ghoul’s lineage back through several “generations” of ghoul attacks. One takeaway from his notes is the very strong possibility of what he calls a “ghoulish source” having risen to prominence in the region.

The threat gone, the group returned to Sandpoint and were questioned by a guard at the Sandpoint Bridge. Apparently, Sheriff Hemlock had increased the town patrols with the new murders. Heading into town, they encountered Sheriff Hemlock and a patrol of his men moving up Market Street. Letting the Sheriff know abut the incident at the sanatorium, they were getting ready to move along when frantic yelling and arguing drew their attention. The guard from the Sandpoint bridge was escorting an old farmer who was yelling and muttering incoherently.

The farmer identified himself as Maester Grump, a farmer from a small farm near the Soggy River. Screaming about walking scarecrows, he quickly launched into a short but harrowing story, speaking of how the southern farmlands have become plagued by foul walking scarecrows that stalk the night. All the farmers knew that the problems were coming from the old Hambley place—things “just ain’t been right there for a few days now”—but when a group of locals paid the Hambley farm a visit yesterday evening, they were attacked by folk that looked like corpses but fed like starving animals. At this point in the telling, Grump’s worked himself into a lather again and shrieked, “They even ate the dogs!” 

Apparently the group was attacked by as many as fifteen of the crazed creatures, and Sheriff Hemlock turned quite pale at the news. Aquinas, with his usual tact, informed the Sheriff that the party would look into it on the morrow, but would need to rest and regain their strength this evening. Rorrek and Tsaruqs went to petition Father Zantus to accompany the party, as they lacked any divine magic to battle the undead menace. Father Zantus was clearly reluctant, as he was not a warrior, but Rorrek's persuasive words convinced him to help eliminate the undead plague, and Tsaruqs offered to ensure that Ka stayed close to the priest's side to protect him. Rorrek then went to speak with his right hand man, Orik Vancaskerkin, and struck a deal to have Orik accompany them south.

Arwyn ventured into her usual haunts, inquiring about the "Misgivings" that was mentioned in her note. She learned from several Varisian travelers that the term referred to Foxglove Manor, which had a long history of unfortunate events and was supposedly cursed. Combined with all of the other clues, this pointed toward Aldern Foxglove and Arwyn swore to find out what his role was in all of this.

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